The Issue of 2012

The people will judge in November.



Conservatives are engaged in an interesting intramural debate over National Federation of Independent Business, et al. v. Sebelius—the Obama-care case. But whether they think Chief Justice Roberts deserves hearty praise or contemptuous blame or any of the countless permutations in between, whether they love the Obama-care ruling or hate it, here’s the key short-term fact: Conservatives are now set up for a political triumph far sweeter than any contentious win in the courts. The path forward is clear, and conservatives can surely unite behind the indispensable next step: win this election, and repeal Obama-care through the political process.

And of course this won’t be merely a short-term victory. Not only is Obama-care the most important issue in the upcoming election, its survival or repeal is crucial to the fate of freedom and prosperity in the decades to come.

The good news is that ...


Profiles in Courage


"Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us,” we are told. So we take this occasion to praise three admirable individuals who died in the past two weeks. Each of them was extraordinary in his or her own right, but each of them also exemplified the virtues of a remarkable ...

President Obama

Promises, Promises


Barack Obama has an accountability problem. It’s not simply that during the 2008 campaign he made extravagant promises to heal the planet, slow the rise of the oceans, end political divisions in America, and usher in an era of hope and change. It’s that as a candidate ...


Unreliable Ally

Advocates of small government shouldn’t look to the Supreme Court for help.



As is abundantly demonstrated by the commentary on the June 28 decision upholding Obamacare, the drama of constitutional decision-making by the Supreme Court is irresistible. Such a significant issue decided, in effect, by one man! And that man, Chief Justice John Roberts—is he a lawless sellout to political pressure or a brilliant legal statesman? Is the fundamental constitutional principle of limited national powers gone forever? Or has Roberts laid down a subtle doctrinal roadmap that will eventually allow the Court to save our republic?

The drama, of course, began long before the Court issued National Federation of Independent Business, et al. v. Sebelius. There was, for instance, the intense, decades-long strategizing that went into trying to select and confirm reliable and principled conservatives for the High Court. There was the grand theorizing about the best avenues for a legal attack on the so-called Affordable Care ...


Our Dignified Constitution

Fourth of July reflections on the Queen’s Jubilee.


It was perhaps inevitable that our Fourth of July celebrations last week might have seemed anti-climactic after the four-day festivities a month ago accompanying the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Fireworks, however spectacular, cannot compare with the thousand-boat flotilla on the Thames cheered ...


The Negotiation Delusion

Iran talks fail again.


The ongoing failure of talks concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons program, most recently in Istanbul on July 3, is no surprise. This latest negotiation charade between Iran and the Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany (P5+1) is the culmination of 10 years of innumerable ...


Subsidies Old and New

The system Obamacare destroys.


President Obama has one thing right: Obamacare will end the process by which insured patients, or those capable of paying from their own pockets (e.g., the rich Saudi princes who inhabit the best suites in our hospitals), subsidize patients who show up in the emergency room, are treated, and ...


Washington Loses Power

And not just from a storm.


For Washington, this is definitely not the best of times. The town is suffering from a power outage.

The evidence is hard to miss, from Washington’s weeklong struggle to cope with storm damage that knocked out electricity across the ...

Pointing at a map

Terror Is Their Family Business

Why won’t the State Department designate the Haqqanis?


The Haqqani network is the most aggressive terrorist organization targeting U.S. and host nation forces in Afghanistan. Founded by aging patriarch Jalaluddin Haqqani, the network is now managed by his sons Sirajuddin, Badruddin, and Nasiruddin, and their uncles Ibrahim and Khalil. They have ...


Religious Freedom Under the Gun

The Obama administration neglects a key foreign policy issue.


The State Department recently announced that it was dropping coverage of religious freedom from its annual Human Rights Report. The declared reason: to avoid duplicating coverage available in the annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

There ...


Capitalism’s Brave New World

We have seen the future, and it microtasks



Tired of journalism’s glamour and prestige, I decided to take a second job last week. I went to Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk website—a sort of virtual job fair matching thousands of businesses and online workers—and got a microtasking gig. It didn’t take long. I filled out a few forms, proved I was a live, human being with a functional email address, and Amazon put me to work. My first assignment was for an employer called “CrowdSource” and the task was to type a provided search term into Google, click on the first result, and copy that page’s URL into my work page.

I have no idea what function this job could possibly serve, except to help someone game, or learn to game, the Google search algorithm. But I wasn’t getting paid to think. I was paid to type, click, copy, and paste. I completed eight of these microtasks in less than two minutes. I was paid 16 cents. Or rather, I will be paid 16 cents at some later date—provided that CrowdSource ...

Books & Arts

Brutal Victor

The man who crushed the Wehrmacht.



At the entrance to Red Square, a large, striking statue greets visitors. Erected in 1995 in time for the 50th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, it depicts Marshal Georgy Zhukov on his Arabian horse during the 1945 victory parade—and confirms his status as Russia’s national hero. The British historian Geoffrey Roberts is convinced that Zhukov deserves this place of honor, since he was “the best all-around general of the Second World War.” 

Yet in this meticulously researched new biography, Roberts also points out that Zhukov was “a deeply flawed character of epic achievements .  .  . neither the unblemished hero of legend nor the unmitigated villain depicted by his detractors.” That judicious verdict is right on target. But there are all sorts of problems in writing a new biography of Zhukov, and evaluating his record. Roberts navigates many of them ...


Original Edith

The Sitwell with, arguably, the main claim to genius.


Does a biography bring any psychological insight to the portrayal of its subject? Does it place its subject in the context of his or her contemporaries? Does it have anything of critical substance to say about its subject? Is it well written? Is it entertaining? Is it animated by that ...


Baptism of Fire

George Washington’s adventures as a British officer.


Was young George Washington a slightly inept and self-serving martinet who helped to blunder the British Empire into the otherwise avoidable French and Indian War? Seemingly so, according to this account of Washington’s early military adventures. 


Flood Zones

A market solution to the challenge of water supply.


No observer can ignore the news reports of searing drought in Texas, the competition for limited supplies of water among the booming cities of the Colorado River basin, or even the recurrent conflicts among Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, which rise and fall in ...


No Props to Give

American rhetoric in black and white.


Recently, as I was putting the finishing touches on a story, an editor suggested that I “give props” to the people I was writing about. The idea came from a superior who felt that I should also give a “shout-out” to the subjects of my essay. It was a suggestion which my editor, ...

Carolyn Drake

Obsessive Compulsive

Stories of the macabre, the unnatural, and the deeply eccentric.


Our author, professor of creative writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is apparently a huge nerd, and the title of his first short story collection allows the science fiction-savvy reader to discern this fact upfront. Omicron Ceti III is the name of the planet featured in ...


A Brush with Eternity

Mark Hemingway, grateful.



My wife called me from the pediatrician’s office to tell me they were concerned our youngest daughter might have cancer. A short while before, I’d been playing with her when I’d noticed a small lump on her neck. Her annual check-up was approaching, and I told my wife to ask about it. There was much knitting of brows in the examination room, and multiple doctors were consulted. 

When I got home that night, we celebrated Linden’s third birthday. She had helped her mother make the cake and was so eager to show me the finished product that she was jumping up and down. The impish creature whose tousled curls barely reached above the mound of flames and pink frosting placed on the table in front of her did not seem sick. She certainly had none of the symptoms of lymphoma. At her age, she does not know the meaning of the word lethargy.

Every parental instinct in my body screamed there was nothing to worry ...


Particles in Motion

God Particle

Last week The Scrapbook enjoyed a sensation it hadn’t felt since 1995, when Fermat’s Last Theorem was finally proved, after 358 years, by Princeton mathematician Andrew Wiles. 

Of course, as everybody knows, the theorem—which the Guinness Book of World Records lists among “the most difficult mathematical problems”—states that no three positive integers (a, b, and c) can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two. In a particularly elegant formulation, Wiles proved the conjecture in two papers published in the Annals of Mathematics—“Modular elliptic curves and Fermat’s Last Theorem” and “Ring theoretic properties of certain Hecke algebras”—which The Scrapbook still enjoys perusing on rainy afternoons.

So readers can well imagine The Scrapbook’s excitement when the July 5 edition of the New York Times ...


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